Conservation in Australia, Past Present and Future: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference, 19 – 21 October 2011 Canberra


Over recent years, we have become increasingly aware that our world is in a considerable state of flux – economically, environmentally, politically, socially and technologically Significant shifts in these areas have flow on effects, impacting on our culture as a whole, in addition to other aspects of our lives. Over the past two decades, we have grown more reliant on a range of technologies, so much so, that for certain sectors of contemporary society, a large proportion of our communication and interaction as well as intellectual and creative output is interwoven with one type of digital mechanism or another.

Articles about a potential and imminent ‘digital Dark Age’ are beginning to frequent the media, while the general public is becoming aware of just how impermanent our ongoing access to some of the world’s digital content might be. Whether this is due to dependencies between the various systems, proprietary commercial software or for a multitude of other reasons, our futuristic dreams are rapidly turning in to a nightmarish digital void. Larger cultural institutions have been well aware of these issues, developing mechanisms and workflow processes to combat these challenges for over a decade, but what about the smaller organisations? Typically, small not-for-profit arts and cultural organisations, in both Australia and overseas, do not have access to suitable resources, enabling them to preserve their archives to the similar standards of the memory sector’s government institutions. What low-cost strategies have some of these smaller organisations or individual digital archivists and researchers, proposed and implemented, in order to at least partially preserve digital content for the long-term?

By using techniques such as virtualisation and video-cued recall, spanning dance technology performance, media artworks and, selected initiatives, including the international Centre for Art and New Technologies (CIANT) Artistic Testbed developed as part of the European Union’s Cultural, Artistic and Scientific knowledge for Preservation, Access and Retrieval (CASPAR) project, Documentation and Conservation of the Media Arts Heritage (COCAM) research and the online net.artdatabase illustrate various approaches to documenting and managing complex born-digital content by way of ‘digitising the experience’. Each approach provides a different methodology, enabling active steps to be taken in preserving some of our most fragile digital cultural content.


2011 AICCM National Conference, Canberra
Paper author:
Somaya Langley